A Pearl of Great Price
When a change of approach proved necessary, Jesus began to teach using parables. His message about a coming kingdom on earth was encouraging some Jewish nationalists to imagine that he was about to head a revolutionary movement which would sweep away the occupying Roman force and establish a Jewish State again. They wanted Jesus to be their king, but he had been given a very different job specification by his Father.
Jesus will come as a king and will rule over God’s Kingdom on earth, as the Scriptures clearly promise:
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land (Isaiah 32:1–2).
To ensure there would be people in that Kingdom with him, Jesus came as a Saviour and his remit was to give his life as a sacrifice for sin, which would be effective for saving “his people” (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus did not want that message to be lost amidst nationalistic fervour, so he taught by parables to make people think about what they really wanted and needed. Many parables were about the Kingdom of God: on one day alone he used eight different parables to describe aspects of the Kingdom, focusing upon the attitude of mind and heart that is necessary for people to gain access.
Seeking and Finding
Among the eight parables Jesus taught were two about seeking and finding.
Before his change to teaching in parables, Jesus had taught that his followers should:
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).
Now he illustrated what that meant in practice by one parable in which someone stumbles across hidden treasure, referred to in a previous article in this issue, and one in which a pearl trader sets out deliberately to find the finest pearl that can be bought:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45–46).
Imagine his excitement when this trader finally found the thing he had been looking for all through his business life. No doubt he had found many lesser pearls but they had not satisfied him; they failed to come up to his expectations. So he made a determined effort to find that one fine pearl and once he had found it he was prepared to sell all he had to buy just that one pearl.
Of course, Jesus wasn’t a pearl trader himself, nor was he speaking to pearl traders. He was using this as an example of someone searching for what he considered to be the most valuable thing in life. And because Jesus likened this quest to “the kingdom of heaven”, elsewhere termed the kingdom of God, the pearl of great value is the gospel hope of eternal life in the Kingdom which is to be established when Christ returns.
The merchant is representative of someone who is seeking for truth, who studies many philosophies and theories in vain without ever satisfying his or her desire.
Jesus himself was like the pearl trader in that he spent his entire life seeking to do the will of God, his Father, and was never satisfied with anything less than his total obedience. He once said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).
And the Lord Jesus gave everything he possessed to make that search successful, for he had few possessions, no home, no wife, no safety and security, and he laid down his life for us – spending all that he had to secure the prize of everlasting life with his Father The apostle Paul put it like this:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
In laying down his life for his friends, Jesus paid the price of our redemption and has made it possible for us to share his victory. If we choose to seek the truth from God’s Word and come to an understanding of the gospel hope, we can find both satisfaction and contentment, for we then get to see where our life is heading and to what end. We can rest contented, sure in the knowledge that the price has been paid and that God’s kingdom will indeed come, just as God has promised. For the followers of Jesus are those who have been redeemed and purchased for God Himself: “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
This month’s front cover photograph features the museum of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, reputed to be the second oldest in the UK after Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. The deceptively small frontage of the present building in Broad Street conceals a unique Aladdin’s cave of rare books, pottery and coins dating back to the Romans, as well as artwork and artefacts – including a royal medieval charter sealed by King Henry IV granting the right to cut down trees! This fine collection has been built up over many years and is well worth a visit, but there is something else that a seeker after truth might prefer.
The building shares an exclusive secure passageway with the Christadelphian Hall in Spalding. By contrast with the museum, this building has nothing of any value to speak of from a human point of view. Yet, in reality, it contains the most precious treasure that can ever be found – the Bible, the Word of God, which is the greatest treasure anyone could want. It contains the offer of everlasting life in a perfect world. That’s priceless.
By Lydia Balls